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Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Amelie DVD

Summary: Magnifique

Small lives? Small stories? Small interests? No way. Nothing like that exists, that's what seems to be the one and only creed by which this film has been made. That's a similar approach to what you can find in any film by the Coen brothers, but never has this message of hope and unconditional love been uttered more sweetly and convincingly as by this film. This is the redefinition and recovery of innocence, the re-introduction of the best childhood has to offer for so-called grown-ups. Here, life is a box not of chocolates but of hopes and dreams, of desires and needs which we are to pursue - a quest in which we are also asked to aid others.

Life is a game, but you cannot win it. You have to play it. You can only win in unison with everybody else - otherwise, your existence is empty, shallow, doomed. The first step to living is to fully accept and embrace other people - and to maybe give them some push or shove in the right direction. Coincidences? What are coincidences? Are there coincidences? It's just a matter of perspective. Things happen, and you have to deal with them. Take chances. Don't retreat into desperation - and continue dreaming.

Keep in mind that this is a film by the director of 'Alien Resurrection'. Jeunet has charted the darker territories as thoroughly as the brighter ones. Thus what some may want to dismiss as naïveté, as kitsch, should rather be seen as a deliberate corrective, a call for warmth where there is only coldness, for sympathy where there is ignorance, for softness where there is stone. Maybe there's something naïve about this approach anyway. Something innocent even. But that doesn't devalue it; on the very contrary: It makes it even better. In fact, this would have to be considered as the best film of the year.

November 4th, 2001

IMDb/The Faculty

The Faculty (1998)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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The Faculty DVD

Summary: Promising, i.e. disappointing

Forget 'Scream'. That movie was lame, boring, kid stuff. But this one is a horror movie, following the tradition of 'Halloween' and 'Mars Attacks', but following also 'From Dusk Till Dawn'. The difference is that it gets really ugly. I wouldn't say scary, well, I would. But I'm sort of accustomed to that kind of stuff (if one can ever be accustomed to watching this!) just because of watching routine.

I expected 'The Faculty', being by Robert Rodriguez, to be something special in some ways. In that respect I must say it did feature some very interesting and inventive elements, like the way the main protagonists are introduced, also in terms of photography. But from Rodriguez himself I expected something more. Especially at the climax he returned to sort of a cliché-like approach (but not without irony), also didn't I like the final scenes. They just seemed to feel like a soap opera. Those points account for this movie being rated 8 of 10, not better.

Now concerning what made this one special. First of all, irony. Second of all, visuals. Third, casting and acting. It is just unbelievable how much some actors seem to enjoy playing mean, playing nasty, playing alien characters. The visuals of the teachers, of the sort of zombies were really something special. Also was the entire introduction of the movie. The problem, however, might have been the relatively large cast, something which was different in this one from Rodriguez' other films. But Josh Hartnett and Elijah Wood proved to be just as great as their older colleagues. To conclude, this was perhaps the best high school horror could get; but Rodriguez though could have done it even better.

April 25th, 1999

IMDb/The Family Man

The Family Man (2000)
Directed by Brett Ratner  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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The Family Man DVD

Summary: Truly a "family" film

There are choices in life that may be too big for any one of us, their consequences too drastic, their impact frightening, their scope smashing down our sense of self-reliance, our faculties to control the small part of the world we call our own - choices that seem irrevocable, irreversible, but essential; we may think we're happy having made them, but some short, big moment, we'll feel the emptiness, the horror of having made the wrong choice: And there may be nothing left to do, nothing left to change, what's done, is done, and cannot be made undone.

What if we somehow were given that chance? An alternate option, an option to start anew, or to change things? What would we be willing to sacrifice - what would we consider essential, what would we deem to be a life worth living? Would we be open for such a chance, would we see it if it suddenly allowed us a glimpse into what could have been - into what, possibly, should have been?

These are the things forming the core of this movie, and the execution is marvellous. Nicolas Cage is brilliant as ever, but Téa Leoni does live up to his performance very well. The story has its twists and turns, asking the right questions, giving the right answers. All in all, this has been the right film for the holiday season, and a highlight of its year.

February 4th/5th, 2001

IMDb/Fight Club

Fight Club (1999)
Directed by David Fincher ·  Rating: 9 of 10
9 of 10

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Fight Club DVD

Summary: Wrongly balanced, partly excellent

Rareley do you get a film that's quite such a ride as this one; rarely do you get a film that is so completely not what you expected. I had a similar reaction once I had seen 'Se7en' - only that this one is much better. 'Fight Club' is really original and offers some great visuals and an incredible start, as well as two damn fine actors, Edward Norton and Brad Pitt.

So much for the positive side. There's a thing about extraordinary effects and stunning sequences, about originality and ingenuity, about pace and buildup. The problem is, once you start with all these things, you need to either maintain the high standards or even to outdo them; once you stop and return to normal, the thrill is gone and the pace is disrupted. Any attempt to return to the original intensity by almost casually adding some weird perspective doesn't do the trick - even the less if the intensity decreases at the supposed climax, but decreases not as much as you could call it an anti-climax. Of course you can have some promising scenes at the beginning, an action sequence like in the Bond movies, a teaser so to say; but you have to maintain continuity somehow. Fincher doesn't do such a bad job at all, it's just that it is not as brilliant as it started. When your mouth opens at the beginning, a "wow" forming in your mouth, you expect more. You won't get it with this movie. Every further attempts at weirdness and originality rather seem to exist only for the effect, and within these scenes there seems to lack any cohesion.

From a philosophical standpoint, it is interesting - to say the least - how similarities are being either created or cited from a century past, recreating a fin-de-siècle - perspective. The numbness of daily routine, the boredom, the ennui, all of that leading to a depressing situation incting more primitive instincts - things very similar to vitalist theories of people like Gobineau, Chamberlain and Nietzsche: theories which would lead into racism and national socialism. The brutish, animalistic, communo-fascist movement created by Tyler Durden shows similarities to the violent "revolutionaries" from either side of the political spectrum. Although falling back into depictions of the gross and ugly without any attempts at sublimity, this story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde proves to be thought-provoking. It also shows how dangerous and wrong it can be to assume what the needs of society are. But in all its horror, there doesn't seem to remain any hope. Like 'Se7en', it is gross and violent, only with an advanced visual style and a sometimes dazzling way of narration.

November 16th, 1999


Frequency (2000)
Directed by Gregory Hoblit  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Frequency DVD

Summary: Interesting yet predictable

The concept behind this movie smells like a mixture of some dozen Star Trek and Outer Limits episodes and some other sf movies, so that the premise feels quite conventional and even lame. The "scientific" realization may be different, and the actual father-son constellation also, but the entire story belongs into the What-If scenario much better probed in the 'Back to the Future' trilogy. Whatever. Even with a lame topic, a film could still score high; most love stories or thrillers aren't that inventive either.

Throughout its course, the film actually succeeds in providing suspense, even some good and inventive camera work. The drama is good, the story dealt with in a good way. With two exceptions, the first nearly fatal, the second being severe. The first is the beginning. There is no sense in it except to show the father in action. It has no further relevance to the story except to show that the father is a firefighter. And it is done in such a direct and obvious way that it hurts - and it hurts badly, smelling like an absolute lack of imagination. The titles sequence with the sun and the polar lights was much better, although the main titles were a bit too blurry - you can do that if you have an abstract background (like in 'Fight Club') but not when there's something going on in the background. Title sequences and actual plot should never compete for attention. But that's a minor flaw, and maybe I'm being overly critical here. The ending is much worse.

*** SPOILER *** This film could have ended so perfectly. It could have ended with the death of the son, which would have made perfect sense. It would have given it a perfect dramatic turn, a real bitter-sweet atmosphere; but instead, it's just perfect harmony as if nothing had ever happened. This is bad, really bad, and it devalues a movie which had recuperated from a flawed beginning and so far even managed to infuse an old concept with new blood. But this ending is crap, pure crap; it's sweet, but too sweet, and it takes the spice out of the film. Of course the story is nicer when there's a happy ending, but that doesn't make it necessarily better. *** END SPOILER ***

All in all, the movie is still thought-provoking, but that's the supposed nature of sf. The acting is neither bad nor extraordinary, the music outstanding, the directing has some twists in it. But the story suffers from above mentioned mistakes, and they are fatal. Maybe this is due to the lame concept after all.

September 1st, 2000

IMDb/Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th (1980)
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham  ·  Rating: 3 of 10
3 of 10

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Friday the 13th DVD

Summary: Laughable, this is no 'Halloween'

The shadow of 'Halloween' looms omnipotently over this little horror flick made two year's after John Carpenter's low-budget horror classic, but it is still just a shadow, a reminder of what is possible. 'Friday the 13th' has a nice backstory building up, aiming for a climax never to come. Well, it does come, but it is just lame and strangely boring.

There are people dying on the screen, but they die in such numbers and in such frequency that this can be neither horror, nor slasher, it is simply splatter, and at its worst - if it won't be for some nice camera work and the scenery. This movie actually feels bigger than its above cited nemesis, which is merely due to the set. Also, there is some nice and sublime work with light and darkness, but that's it. Where's the music, by the way?

Badly acting younsters with ridiculous 70s hairdo and outfit being chased by some killer, well, there are things more interesting than that. But everything aforesaid could still be improved by a good ending. But what we see happening here is perhaps the worst possibility come true: What could have stayed a dream sequence, and a perfect one, develops into a pseudo-Mike Myers spawning a movie series. That hurts, and it ruins the rest of the movie: you get the feeling that the rest was irrelevant as the only sense behind it was an ending aimed at allowing a sequel to exist; an ending which doesn't seem to fit into the entire movie. A movie which introduces the supernatural element as a quick fix at the end feels like cheating. Boogieman ex machina.

September 1st, 2000

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